Some of the early adopters of social media platforms were medical centers, like Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson Cancer Center. While large medical institutions must adhere to a different legal standard than the average consumer, the benefits of inviting patients to become part of the conversation have changed and improved the way hospitals deliver care.
Creating a two-way dialogue enriches communication both internally and externally. According to the healthcare lawyer, Thomas Greeson, “Used correctly, social media tools can enhance a practice’s reputation and brand with patients, referring physicians, and hospitals.”
More importantly, patients (as consumers) are demanding more accountability and accessibility. Social media serves to facilitate this new business reality.
Helping Radiologists Counter Stereotyping & Improve Brand Awareness
Radiology departments are no different than any other part of a hospital; they exist to treat and care for their prime constituents—people. “If radiologists want to fight against the stereotype and become more to hospitals than faceless, nameless, replaceable people sitting in front of workstations in dark rooms, then they would do well to consider social media,” Greeson adds.
Demonstrating value and building relationships improves the brand awareness of any radiology practice or imaging department. Many people research online before making “buying” decisions. Social media signals, such as sharing, also influence the results being served when someone types “medical imaging” into a search engine, like Google or Bing.
Thinking Ahead Before Jumping In
Although you may have heard troubling stories of consumers hijacking a news story online, consider that even if your organization isn’t on social media, those conversations are still happening. If you aren’t in the social space to respond, the story could fester. If you’re engaged with the social community, though, you can guide the tone of the message – possibly to victory.
Additionally, many social media troubles can be prevented with a proactive approach. Most medical centers and healthcare institutions have a social media policy in place for both employees and consumers. These policies go a long way towards establishing what should and shouldn’t be said online.
Putting a face on radiology and building trust with patients usually trumps concerns about using social media. But, it’s critical to understand the role different tools may play and how your patients will benefit. Then, integrate them into your ongoing marketing/communications efforts.
While radiologists may have little experience communicating directly with patients, they can become an important information source when people want to be educated about MRIs or mammograms, for example. Additionally, they can present a side of the health care delivery system to other constituents, like referring physicians or members of the hospital’s board, who may not know their true value.
Knowing Your Community
The first step in taking advantage of social media is knowing your community. To whom would you like to appeal? By what may they be motivated? Then start the conversation via social media and join in to the conversations of others. Through social media, you can find new ways to connect with peers and appeal to patients that may find your services to be valuable. And that could be good for your practice.